‘The current paper-based customs system is a relic’ – BPMA on meat exports

The UK meat industry has warned of impending border chaos for exports, as post-Brexit checks between the UK and EU countries, including Ireland, have brought cross-border meat flows almost to a halt, even with reduced volumes of meat being exported.

This news will be of concern to Irish meat exporters, who export over €1 billion of meat products to the UK each year.

According to figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), Ireland’s exports of beef, pig, sheep and poultry meat to the UK in 2018 were valued at €1.3 billion.

More than three-quarters of this (€1 billion) was bovine meat, equating to 211,000t. There were also 65,000t of pigmeat, 12,000t of sheepmeat and 47,000t of poultry exported to the UK in 2018.

In an attempt to ease into the new customs checks, British meat companies have cut trade volumes with the EU and Northern Ireland to about 20% for the first two weeks of January, the British Meat Processors’ Association (BMPA) said.

“The current paper-based customs and certifications system is a relic. It was never designed to cope with [an] integrated, just-in-time supply chain,” said Nick Allen, head of the BMPA.

‘Catastrophic delays’ for exports

The BMPA has said that exporters have faced “catastrophic delays” and that it will only get worse as exporters get set to ramp up export levels in the coming weeks.

Under the Brexit trade deal which was agreed last December, British trade with the EU remains free of tariffs and quotas on goods, but exporters, especially fresh produce sellers, say their businesses are still threatened by delays caused by customs checks.

The BMPA said meat exporters have had consignments returned undelivered and that European customers are already turning away from UK suppliers.